IT’S TIME FOR SERIOUS ACTION IN DEALING WITH A RATHER DISTURBING ISSUE
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) -an office of the US Department of Education- the 2010 numbers show that 27percent of all US citizens have obtained at least a Bachelor’s degree (BAs=17.1 & MAs/Equiv=9.9); from some institution of higher learning. Males had a slight edge on females in regard to gender.
There are some 5,758 legitimate institutions of higher learning in the USA. Of these, some 4,495 grant degrees. In 2010, there were about 20.3 million students enrolled in these institutions. About a million others were enrolled in various non-degree programs.
The number of college grads in the USA has steadily increased over the last half century. At the end of World War 2, less than ten percent of the population held college degrees. That was when the GI Bill kicked in, allowing veterans and military personnel to utilize various monies (and other benefits) that the federal government had allocated for their college education during and after their military service.
Over that time, various educational programs (like Pell grants, state tuition-assistance programs, and federally-insured student loan guarantees) have served to increase college enrollment amongst non-military members of US society. Poor people have benefitted immensely from many such governmental programs and initiatives. Expectedly, college- graduation rates have risen.
I am not going to extol the virtues of a tertiary education here, since they are self evident. Obtaining a good education is the best tool for self-advancement in most industrial societies worldwide. It is as simple as that. Apart from the individual development (intellectual, psychological and otherwise), there are numerous economic and social benefits that can be easily quantified. Generally speaking, the overall benefits for a society with a highly educated population are proverbial.
Back in 2007, there were 18.2 million enrolled in college. There were at least another half million enrolled in non-degree programs. Thus one can see -five years later- that college registration continues to grow despite the deep recession during these years. Studies continue to show this as an identifiable phenomenon during recessionary times. People try to upgrade their skills/knowledge base during tough economic times.
And yet, behind these positive revelations, there is a serious downside. A recent study shows that black-males make up only four per cent of all college-students presently enrolled. Of note, black women were registered at a clip almost three times higher than black men. It is a serious socio-economic-politico-cultural issue for all of us living here in the good old USA. The implications are deadly when this result is combined with other statistics and studies being bandied around.
Black males and native Indians have been identified as the only demographics under-represented on college campuses relative to their population count. I suspect that Hispanic males aren’t far off; but that’s another study. To take this tragically further: black males make up more than half the total prison population nationwide. There are around two and a half million people of all races, nationalities, religions and ethnicities locked down in this country right now. The USA has less than five per cent of the world’s total population; but when it comes to those incarcerated all over the world the USA has almost twenty-five per cent of that count.
To show how some stats inter-relate, consider this with some of the other things I say here: blacks (both males and females) make up nearly eleven of every twenty murder victims in this country. Most are victims of gun violence. There isn’t a single gun-manufacturer who is black.
There are over a million black males in prison; more than there are enrolled in colleges and universities. This downward trend amongst black males has been observed for decades now. It’s time to do something about it. It is time for serious governmental-intervention nationwide. You cannot simply isolate statistics, discard the results of serious studies, and also ignore reality. There are always prices to pay for folly.
How many black males make payments into the social security system and die before collecting a penny? How many black males reach 62 without a pension? How many white males live at least a dozen years longer than black males? How many white females live twice as long? How many blacks face the pain and anguish of terminal/chronic illnesses and at the same time have to deal with inferior health-care services when compared to whites? How many times do we have to fund studies showing that racism is the number one affliction facing the black community in near every aspect of life? I could go on and on pumping out stats and studies, like a young black male using Viagra: but most of you must have caught my drift by now.
A group based in Washington, DC, recently released this study (4%) which also found that the “missing-father syndrome” (my words here), has a lot to do with these low college-enrollments (and high incarceration rates). It also cited poverty as one of the other leading causes. The lack of timely intervention at crucial stages in the lives of young black males is another contributory factor. The study highlighted the lack of suitable male role models for young black men as a serious shortcoming.
Since 2008 there has been a visible trend of failing to graduate high-schoolers all over the country. It has started to hit the white population; so maybe now there will be some serious governmental intervention. Meanwhile, it has been going on in the black male community for decades. Right now in NYC high-schools, only one in four black-males will graduate on time. Most end up leaving with no diploma. Many eventually settle for a GED (High School Equivalency Diploma). This puts the “four per cent” college-enrollment number for black males in better perspective. This also endorses a ten year old study which found over 40 per cent of all black males in NYC are jobless: on any given day.
The number of black and Hispanic males who are unsuitable for the work-world is alarming. I am not even dealing with substance abuse issues. Sure there is a high degree of alcohol and drug abuse in the “hood”; but this is nothing new. I even suspect that aspects of this particular problem has gotten lil better over the years; given the many programs attacking such. I am talking about those people who can’t read, write or spell to save their lives. Those who can’t even chew gum, walk straight and think sensibly at the same time. Those who cannot count sticks even if piled together and separated individually; those who have flunked math and science all through their scant school days; those who cannot think creatively, objectively or rationally. Those who just continually “mess-up” over and again. Many of them make babies as easily as they roll marijuana joints. Many of them spend their lives continually in and out of the prison system. Too many black kids are growing up in dysfunctional homes.
Add to all this, the fact that one in three black males will be incarcerated by age thirty, and you will see why I have written many columns highlighting the metastasizing black community. Add the continuing rise in new HIV/AIDS cases in communities of color, and you see the need for sounding a fire alarm.
In New York, the city council passed an initiative for black males about a decade ago. It funded programs through the city university system (CUNY), which recruited and nurtured black males from high schools, and monitored them all the way to graduation from college. The BMI (Black Male Initiative) as it is called has helped many a student with the requisite support systems needed for successfully completing and achieving their tertiary education goals.
I have written and spoken on countless occasions highlighting the many issues facing communities of color (especially in the urban settings) of not only the USA, but also of many countries worldwide. In near all counties within this nation, where populations are heavily black -and where serious socio-economic-political-cultural problems exist- one can always trace back to the missing-father syndrome. It is ostensibly the main contributor to violence, poverty, ignorance, decadence and high-crime in these places.
For simple reasons relating to overall survival and quality of life, the black community cannot continue to have at least two out of every three children born, raised by single mothers without husbands or live-in partners. Too many kids are growing up not knowing who their biological fathers are. Too few ever interact with their fathers or have surrogates fathers to fall back on. Even in many cases where biological fathers are known, there is little parenting to accompany such knowledge. In many black communities, values aren’t being taught by parents. In these situations values are being caught from Madison-Avenue advertisers, on television sitcoms and sex-laced vignettes or movies, via rap/hip-hop music, and also from celebrity-dominated news items on mainstream and alternative media. These kids are growing up with a distorted sense of reality, expectation(s), civic duty and personal responsibility.
Add the fact that most inner-city public school systems are failing all over the darn country, and you can see what we are all up against as a challenge.
The dirty little secret the black community refuses to face up to is the fact that too many men and women have been making horrible choices relative to their sexual behavior. Too many are just fucking to be fucking without thinking of the possible consequences to their actions. They aren’t fucking for love, happiness or appreciation. They aren’t even fucking for kinship and companionship. They are just doing it to be doing it. There seems to be little or no value placed on the sex act anymore.
Back when Jesse Jackson was exposed as having a love-child with one of his employees, Iyanla Vanzant said something very profound that missed many ears. She said that true character counts when you are alone with your friend (or relative’s) spouse; and he (or she) is trying to get into your pants (or panties). But who cares about character anymore? Damn; they don’t even teach civics in schools either.
In communities of color, things aren’t working out as well as many will have you believe. Relative to college grads black females annually outnumber males by three to one. Relative to the overall population, black females outnumber males by over three million. Almost half the black females in the USA have never been married. In white-America, that number is around 23 per cent.
When you totally analyze Rick Santorum -the former senator and current republican presidential candidate- you have to conclude that he is an intellectual midget; given the many asinine things he consistently says. And yet, he is correct about one or two social observations. For example: if one was to graduate from high school (college is even better), and delay making babies until you are matured and married, then you increase your chances of doing well in society. This isn’t rocket science folks. And yet too many feel it is all right to impose their proclivities on the rest of us, since the government will often pick up the check for their indiscretions.
In this era where unprotected sex is nothing but Russian-roulette with penises instead of pistols, society has to demand that organizations like Planned Parenthood (and others), offer more than birth-control devices and medications. Society must also demand that educational institutions teach sex as a social- survival skill-set and not simply a natural carnal instinct for dissection in biology courses.
Amongst black women living in inner-cities more than half their pregnancies end in abortions. This is serious stuff. The collective attitude towards sexual intercourse must shift away from casualness to seriousness. It is time to re-assess our values around sex between consenting adults. It isn’t simply between two people: there are societal consequences to your sexual behavior and decisions on many levels. Between church and state we have failed to educate people to appreciate the profound act therein.
Sometimes I consider that because the LGBT crowd has dominated the sex-conversations during the last half century -mainly because of their valid petitions for better treatment in US society- hard discussions about the missing father syndrome afflicting the black community has fallen off the radar screen. I will posit that seductive gay lifestyle choices have been imposed on public stage via media outlets; and that this -along with major shifts in sexual mores and social acceptance/tolerance- has contributed to the promiscuous life style choices of too many heterosexuals and serial monogamists in the contemporary setting.
This is an observation I make when I compare what was going on in black communities relative to “fatherhood” back in the pre- World War 2 era. The first half of the 20th century saw black males in the USA being much more responsible as fathers, than probably at anytime in their post-Africa history. Then the sixties ushered in periods of “anything goes” and “whatever gets you through the night is alright”. Many females today believe that their options shouldn’t hinder their sex-drives; many times they are wrong. Too often they pay substantial prices for their proclivities: nature is a bitch. The kids pay too; as does society at large.
We have gone through periods of selfishness in US society, where near everyone demands the right to be free of responsibility to his/her fellow human. Thus many do as they please as long as it feels good.
In the gay community sexual adventurism doesn’t lead to pregnancy. In the heterosexual community it does. There is a difference. Emulating the cavalier life style choices of most gays has had social costs.
We are growing up too many parentless kids who become sociopaths and misfits. Too many of them are angry, mean, self-absorbed and insecure. It goes all the way back to pregnancy. Somewhere between the seventh month of pregnancy, and the seven years of childhood, personality, attitude, disposition, moral character and the like, are initially shaped. These are crucial years in individual development.
We cannot ignore studies which show that 49 out of 50 serial killers have one thing in common: they were given up for adoption at some point in the first seven years of their lives. We have to create public polices to address these harsh realities raised in this column. Otherwise, the questions become: where are we going? Where are we heading?
This year we have presidential candidates running around saying all sorts of things to win your approval: some of which are relevant I am sure. I will bet you that none of them -not even President Obama- will address anything I have raised in this column. And that’s a friggin shame.
Stay tuned-in folks.
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